HAMPSHIRE police has defended a rise in volunteer special police constables, saying they are not a replacement for regular officers.
The number of police officers in our area has fallen by five per cent since 2010 – from 3,785 to 3,566.
In the same period special constable numbers have rocketed by more than a quarter from 420 to 530.
But Hampshire Constabulary, which is battling to save £54m by 2015 due to government spending cuts, says the volunteers are not a replacement for paid police officers.
Special constables have the same powers as regular officers – but are not paid.
Inspector Julie Rawson said: ‘We had started to increase our numbers [of special constables] before the cuts to police budgets.
‘It is not something we have done as a result of that.
‘We have been trying to professionalise the special constabulary.
‘We see volunteers as a way of building better links with the community.
‘It is very much to enhance the work we do rather than replace police officers.’
John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: ‘What we have to do as the Police Federation is to ensure at all times that the special constables are the right people, in the right places with the right training, but they are always an additional resource, not a replacement.’